Combine the chic of Neiman Marcus, the comfort of a bistro menu, the whimsy of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and the magic of Willy Wonka and you have Sugar and Plumm, Purveyors of Yumm. The fantasy of kids with a sweet tooth and grown-ups who want well-priced, well-prepared food comes together to create a magical experience for diners. On multiple visits, my companions and I were consistently impressed with freshly baked classic French pastry (only the burger buns are baked off premise by Balthazar Bakery in Englewood), crispy, artistically plated salads, juicy burgers and hand-cut fries served in mini fryer baskets lined with red and white check paper and an exquisite crispy-skin salmon served with a lush lemon hollandaise and sautéed haricot vert. Bergen families searching for good food, well-priced, family friendly and dare we say, fun, may find the answer at this new Bergen Town Center café and retailer. Sugar and Plumm’s owner Lamia Jacobs, a former oil trader who grew up in Paris and mother of four, said fun was a big part of the equation when it came to creating the restaurant’s concept.
“In Paris, we can get a steak, omelet, crepe or salad any time of the day or night at bistros, but I wasn’t able to find that when we moved to the States,” said the Greenwich, CT resident. “I wanted a menu that was equally savory and sweet, offering sustainable and organic whenever possible and all about comfort. Chicken and waffles are one of our most popular items and people love our crepes, sundaes and hand-made chocolates, everything top quality.” Indeed, Mrs. Jacobs seems to have found the right blend of kid-friendly, yet sophisticated ambience to keep adults happy and a menu that emphasizes well-executed sweet and savory items and nostalgic, comfort foods.
Located in the middle of Bergen Town Center in Paramus, the 4,500 square foot restaurant cum retail space, is clean and efficiently run. Café walls are adorned with hand-painted trompe l’oeil murals that would befit a nursery and curlicue slogans about the wonders of chocolate. Plum colored banquets with bright button detailing complete the space as white puffy clouds dance merrily on the ceiling. Following a crepe station, gelato and ice cream galley, chocolate, confection, sweets and pastry cases, visitors will marvel at floor to ceiling displays of everything from bulk candy to jelly bean dispensers, cookies for decorating along with all the accoutrements needed for proper embellishment, stuffed animals, fashion accessories and an impressive array of iconic candy from years past.
The Sugar and Plumm Paramus location will be the first for the company that will soon open its second café on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. The back of the house team is headed up by Steven Ferdinand, a French Culinary Institute graduate who was Executive Chef at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and Corporate Executive Pastry Chef and chocolatier, Franck Labasse. A Moonachie corporate kitchen turns out all the restaurant’s chocolate, pastries, desserts, breads and which arrive in twice daily shipments to the Paramus retail location.
Grandparents and grandchildren tucked away in booths are as common a sighting at Sugar and Plumm as are lunching ladies, teen girls, moms and toddlers, families and couples dating. The flexibility of the menu (organized into one side savory, one side sweet) makes the restaurant an easy choice for those looking for hearty breakfast fare (starting at $6) mid-morning or late afternoon, a savory sandwich (starting at $8), topped with a fried egg for $1 more. Pancakes are lightened with ricotta and served with berry compote and Vermont maple syrup ($9) and lemon curd and nutella are $2 additional. Savory buckwheat crepes are filled with everything from ham and swiss ($9) to smoked salmon, crème fraiche, onion, capers, market greens and lemon vinaigrette ($12). Stacked waffles start with smoked bacon, aged cheddar and fried egg ($8) and the popular crispy free-range chicken tenders, served with rich, creamy butter, Vermont maple syrup and house hot sauce ($12). The pulled pork stacked waffle ($12) is equally enticing with succulent maple BBQ pork, tangy pickled onion slaw, bibb lettuce and chipotle mayo. Soups are excellent and include classic chicken noodle ($4/cup), full of large pieces of pulled tender chicken in a rich broth and plenty of noodles and aromatic veggie chunks, and butternut squash ($4) which is topped with crunchy roasted butternut squash seeds and a drizzle of EV olive oil. (I wish the restaurant would omit the sage leaves served atop the chicken noodle soup as the taste of sage, in my view, is too assertive; it would work better on the butternut squash soup if fried briefly in butter to crisp it.)
Sandwiches and Panini start at $8 for a triple decker grilled cheese and include delicious roast chicken, Kobe Beef, a foot long angus beef frank ($12) served with house made mustard, relish and onion and the Plumm Burger ($12) which is served on a toasted egg roll with smoked bacon, white cheddar, bibb lettuce and tomato and a side of sweet and tangy plumm tomato jam, which I could have eaten several more ramekins of.
Entrees, which number six and range from $10 for a squat cast iron pot filled with tangy, gooey Mac & Cheese to flat iron steak ($19), free range chicken breast ($17) served with lemon spinach and onion pan sauce to my favorite, the crispy skin salmon ($21). I want fully developed flavors in food and I love butter. I don’t like it when chefs are stingy with butter or tasty morsels that pack a lot of flavor, like sautéed shallots. So, let me say that I love the sautéed haricot vert, those elegant slender string beans, that accompany the crispy-skin salmon as much as I love the salmon itself. The ratio of butter and silky, caramelized shallots to string beans is perfect, making every bite rich and satisfying.
Salads start at an appetizer portion of hummus ($9) served with pita chips, pickle and olives and include a colorful Cobb ($12) served with Maytag blue cheese and tangy, rich buttermilk dressing. I love the simple salad ($8) consisting of nearly an entire head of bibb lettuce, crispy, fresh and well-dressed with a bright lemony vinaigrette and paper thin sweet slices of fuscia colored radish. Side dishes, all $5, include marble potato salad with smoked bacon, French lentils, seasonal fruit and berries.
At the risk of sounding like I don’t get the point of Sugar and Plumm, I confess that I am more excited about the savory side of the menu than the sweet side. That is a personal “issue,” and while I do enjoy sweets, I care more about the before-dessert-fare. However, I would find no fault with anyone who said they visited Sugar and Plumm simply for its decadent molten chocolate cake plated dessert ($8) with oozing rich chocolate cake served with homemade vanilla ice cream. With desserts, Mrs. Jacobs’ influence can also be seen, as she loves sweets but thinks too much sweetness masks the true flavors of other ingredients. She’s spot on and this can be tasted in the restaurant’s ice creams, gelati, sorbets, tarts, compotes and even dessert drinks. Things are well-flavored, but never cloyingly sweet. This is a refreshing departure. The restaurant lovingly embellishes sundaes with all manner of candy, fruits, confections, house made sauces and crunchy nuts along with sophisticated meringue, sometimes served whole, as in the Bee hive ($8) which is piled high and filled with ice cream or crushed as a sweet path to drag your spoon along through a trio of sorbets. Flavors are fresh, fruits discernible in each bite.
This is food that is well thought out and flavorful. Sundaes start at $9 for the Yumm Drop which combines homemade brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and two more scoops of chocolate, covered with homemade fudge sauce, vanilla scented whipped cream and finished with a meringue baton. Peach melba ($9) is served with fresh raspberry coulis and finished with slivered almonds. Our neighbors feasted on Banana Split ($10) and an Over The Yumm ($40) which is a sundae on steroids and enough to feed one good sized family. Suffice it to say that sweet crepes and waffles, starting at $8, and delectable tarts of fruit, chocolate and peanut butter varieties, all $5 and available in mini flights ($7.50) are simply sublime. Hot chocolate ($3.50) is served in an over-sized cup and saucer with bobbing homemade marshmallows, whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. Water is filtered onsite, an important and appreciated offering. The restaurant plans a winter and seasonal menu changes.
Sugar and Plumm Purveyors Of Yumm
620 Bergen Town Center, Paramus, 201-880-8156
Monday – Friday 10:00am to 10:00pm.
Saturday 9:00am to 11:00pm. Call ahead to confirm holiday hours, which may be slightly different from the normal hours.
Heidi Raker Goldstein is our Bergen county regional editor. A locavore, cooking enthusiast, publicist and mother of three junior gourmands, Heidi is equally comfy in greasy spoons and high-end restaurants. When not visiting local farmers markets and farm stands in Bergen and Rockland counties, this New England native, former Manhattanite and Bergen county resident is busy running her PR and green marketing agency, Raker Goldstein & Co., buying food, planning menus, cooking food, writing about food or simply eating. To reach Heidi, email her at